Today Buckingham Palace sadly announced the death of Monty, one of the Queen’s beloved corgis. It’s well known that the Queen has a particular affection for the Welsh corgi but her predecessors had a fondness for much more exotic breeds.
Both the Pekingese and borzoi are two of the focus breeds featured in our forthcoming exhibition Breed: The British and their Dogs, and their patronisation by the royal family is well documented. Queen Victoria’s Pekingese Looty was presented to her by Lieutenant Dunne in the late 19th century. Dunne, along with other British and French troops, had captured the dog following the defeat of China in the Second Opium War in 1860. Prior to this the Pekingese had belonged exclusively to the Chinese imperial household.
The borzoi had equally impressive imperial connections. This breed, originally used for hunting wolves, was a favourite of the Russian imperial family, and the Tsar’s kennels were globally renowned. This imperial proximity and luxurious association made it the target of Russian revolutionaries in 1917. The Tsar’s kennels were closed and the dogs destroyed. In Britain breeders mobilised to prevent the borzoi’s extinction, this action was dominated by aristocratic women including Queen Alexandra.
The Royal Collection have very kindly loaned us several objects which illustrate this royal love affair, two of which you can see above.
Over the next several weeks I will reveal the remaining three focus breeds and more of the wonderful objects we’ll have on display.